Ayame Whitfield, 2020, Geosciences

I investigated the effects of Deccan volcanism on the size of a foraminifera called Guembelitria. Foraminifera are marine lifeforms with a hard calcium-carbonate shell, often around the size of a grain of sand, and examining their fossil record can often be used as a way to determine the environmental conditions at a specific time. I looked at a phenomenon called dwarfing, which is a drop in the size of adult members of a species and a sign of environmental stress. I was tasked with picking the foraminifera out of sediment samples using a microscope and a paintbrush to gently lift them out. I then used a scanning electron microscope to image and measure them so that we could compare their sizes before and after the Cretaceous Extinction, or the event that killed the dinosaurs. We found that the Guembelitria specimens in the samples showed dwarfing, indicating high levels of stress in the ocean around that time, but also were more numerous than other species due to their ability to thrive after disasters. Over the course of the summer, I learned how to work with professors and graduate students, and in general gained experience in the lab.